Looking back to history, after the declaration of independence on August 17, 1945, Indonesia still had to struggle as the Dutch had yet to recognize the independence of West Irian and still considered Indonesia as their colony. The fight for West Irian liberation was still in vain at the time, as various military aggressions occurred between the two nations for another 13 years (1949-1962) in order to truly liberate West Irian.
The increasingly intricate dispute gained the attention of the United Nations, which had only been established for 4 years. Aiming to maintain international peace, 5 member states, i.e. China, France, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and the United States, were significantly concerned about the condition of local communities who might have been caught in the crossfire. The involvement of the United Nations ensured that the resolution process would be accountable and trustworthy with the supervision of the member states.
How did the UN help resolve the dispute?
In accordance with the guidance of the United Nations, the Netherlands, Indonesia, and the local communities of West Irian agreed on the New York agreement which mandated the transfer of Dutch administrative power to the United Nations which was then represented by UNTEA (United Nations Temporary Executive Authority).
The agreement also included the Act of Free Choice or PEPERA (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat, or Determination of the People’s Opinion) which outlined the process for West Papuan people in deciding on the solution to their territorial and sovereignty dispute.
The Act of Free Choice was supervised and witnessed by 9 UNTEA member states, therefore ensuring that the final decision was truly the opinion of West Papuan people without any external intervention.
The UNTEA Correspondents:
– Dr. Djalal Abdoh, Administrator; (Iran)
– George Janecek, Chief Administrative Officer; (US)
– R.G. Herbert, Air Advisor; (France)
– Ghulum Abbas, Director of Finance; (Pakistan)
– Dbh Vickers, Legal Advisor; (former Yugoslavia)
– Charles Coates, Chief of Technical Assistance and Recruitment Services; (US)
– Dr. M. Icasiano, Director of Health; (The Philippines)
– Sudhir Sen, Deputy Administrator; (India)
– Mr. D.A. Somerville, Director of Department of Internal Affairs;
– W.A. Vawdrey, Australian Liaison Officer; (Australia)
– Howard Post, Assistant to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Department;
– Mr. R. Davee, Director of Cultural Affairs;
– Mr. P. Komin, Director of Public Works;
– C. Roy Smith, Deputy Chief Administrative Office, UNTEA; (US)
– William McCaw, Deputy Controller, UN; (New Zealand)
– K.H. Rahman, Special Advisor to the Department of Finance;
– A. J. Linder, Chief Auditor.
The Implementation of the Act of Free Choice with UN Supervision
To resolve the dispute of West Irian, the UN through UNTEA proposed a solution that was in line with international standards in which one person represents one vote in the Act of Free Choice. At the time, UNTEA was represented by Dr. Djalal Abdoh, an Iranian national. The voting was conducted to decide whether West Irian wanted to be an independent state or become a part of Indonesia.
From 14 July to 2 August 1969, a total of 1,026 members of the Act of Free Choice Deliberation Council (DMP) voted, representing the 815,904 people in West Irian. The United Nations ensured that the DMP included 400 representatives of tribal/customary chiefs, 360 representatives of regional communities, and 266 representatives of mass organizations or political parties. The vote was democratically implemented and supervised by the United Nations.
The voting result was in favor of uniting with Indonesia. West Irian, now known as West Papua, became a part of the Republic of Indonesia, specifically a province with special autonomy. Not all West Papuans agreed to join Indonesia, but the majority vote based on an open vote system was in favor of uniting with Indonesia. It eventually became the starting point for the emergence of the KSBP (Kelompok Separatis Bersenjata Papua, or Papua Armed Separatist Group).
This separatist group has been growing since 1969. Indonesia has obviously not been running perfectly since Soekarno era to today’s Jokowi era. However, in order to maintain and strengthen the unity of Indonesia, Indonesian government has been trying to resolve various persisting human right issues in West Papua and exhibit concrete progress on West Papua’s development.
United Nations Declined Petition of West Papuan Independence
The separatist movement’s attempt to shatter Indonesian unity continued. In 2017, Rafael Ramirez as the Chairman of the C24, one of the divisions of the UN, firmly stated that Papua was legitimately a part of Indonesia.
“I am the chair of the C24 and the issue of West Papua is not a matter for the C24. We are just working on the counties that are part of the list of non-self-governing territories. That list is issued by the general assembly,” said the chair on an interview on September 28, 2017. The C24’s role is to assist colonized nations that want to be recognized as independent countries.
He added, “one of the principles of our movement is to defend the sovereignty and the full integrity of the territory of our members. We are not going to do anything against Indonesia as a C24.” This statement was issued following rumors of an independent West Papua petition allegedly submitted to the UN by one of the separatist groups.
As the chair of the C24, Rafael Ramirez said that West Papua was not a matter for the C24. The special committee annually lists territories to which declaration of independence is applicable. The absence of West Papua on the list proves that West Papua is not applicable for declaration.
West Papua Today
Presently, Indonesia is still in conflict with KSBP. Although separatism is still a threat in West Papua, Indonesia has committedly been striving to build West Papua.
The government has developed infrastructure, health, and education worth IDR 85.7 T in the provinces of Papua and West Papua. The central government provides 3 types of state budget (APBN) for West Papua, i.e. the General Allocation Funds, Special Autonomy Funds, and Special Autonomy Funds for infrastructure development with a total value of IDR 11.7 T.
With these funds, the gas engine power plant (PLTMG) is currently sustaining the lives in 191 villages in the regions of Papua and West Papua. Furthermore, as many as 97.7% of West Papuans have become participants of the Indonesia National Health Insurance program (JKN-KIS). Improved health services are also seen from the existence of hospitals in areas such as Wasior at Wondama Bay, Tambrauw, and Arfak Mountains. The Trans Papua road has been built for 4330 km and will be fully completed in 2019, connecting the provinces of Papua and West Papua. Furthermore, West Papua has experienced a growth of 0.78 in HDI, the second highest increase of the HDI figure in Indonesia after the Papua Province.
Indonesia can never change its past. Severe human right violations during the reign of dictatorship have left old scars. What matters now is how to fight together for a better future. Don’t let separatism and invaders take the opportunity to divide us, ever again.
Ramírez, R. (2017, September 28). Statement of UN Chairman of Decolonization Committee About Petition of West Papua. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWb0GZfQQkM
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Mampioper, D. A. (2013, July 25). PEPERA 1969 Sebuah Renungan. Retrieved from TabloidJUBI.com: http://tabloidjubi.com/16/2013/07/25/pepera-1969-sebuah-renungan/
Putra, E. P. (2015, April 30). Pelaku Sejarah: Dunia Akui Papua Bagian NKRI. Retrieved from Republika.co.id: https://www.republika.co.id/berita/nasional/daerah/15/04/30/nnlvxu-pelaku-sejarah-dunia-akui-papua-bagian-nkri
Warinussy, Y. C. (2014, August 14). Perjanjian New York 15 Agustus 1962 Awal Pelanggaran HAM. Retrieved from SuaraPapua.com: https://suarapapua.com/2014/08/14/perjanjian-new-york-15-agustus-1962-awal-pelanggaran-ham/
United Nations. (2015, June 6). Summary of AG-059 United Nations Temporary Executive Authority in West Irian (UNTEA) (1962-1963). Retrieved from United Nations Archives and Records Management Section: https://search.archives.un.org/downloads/united-nations-temporary-executive-authority-in-west-irian-untea-1962-1963.pdf